Society `nearing decadent phase'


Irish society is fast approaching its decadent phase - or perhaps has already reached it - the meeting of the supreme council of the Knights of St Columbanus was warned in Limerick at the weekend.

"This has been, historically, the final phase before collapse," Mr Niall M. Kennedy, supreme knight, insisted. An enormous task now faced the organisation, he said - "to prevent the historical cycle that has overtaken previous societies from occurring here in Ireland".

A deep moral problem permeated society in the Republic, he suggested: violence on Friday and Saturday nights was reported regularly in the media. But because its worst extremes tended to be confined to working-class areas, "its reporting was minimal". Yet when a middle-class teenager was the victim, "it causes a national outcry".

The same applied to teenage suicide, said Mr Kennedy, who went on to talk about what he called the "morality of proximity".

"Midway through my son's holiday," he told the meeting, "we got a call from him to tell us that one of his friends had just been found hanging from a balcony in their complex." Before that he had been barely aware of the reality of teenage suicide and its prevalence among young males. "It took this event to bring it home to me. Around the same time the problem of violence, again revolving around young men, was brought to the fore by the tragic death of a young man outside Anabel's nightclub in Dublin."

The two sets of events raised their own set of moral issues - but there was a "deep moral problem" that connected them. As a nation, there was a tendency to pay minimal attention to such events until people were forced to look at them close up.

"This morality of proximity is unacceptable, particularly where we are dealing with the life or death of our children," he said. Moral decisions tended to be put off "because of the pace that we are forced to live life at". As a society and as individuals "we have" neglected the moral in favour of pragmatic, financial or short-term solutions, Mr Kennedy said.